30 November 2016

Buy and Purge

I am watching myself collect stuff. "Could you use this?" my 89-year-old grandmother asks me as she passes me a kitchen gadget that is older than I am. "Do you want our old Christmas decorations?" my mom asks as she lugs an old blue tote through the front door. "I got this in the white elephant gift exchange at work," Matt says as he hands me a Pepto Bismol pink cupcake maker with a broken handle. I take all of it, I find a place for it in my spacious closets, my full-size basement, the built-in cabinets in the hallway. It all fits in my spacious house and so now, after 7 years of various apartments in 3 states, I can finally keep it.

I think the squirreling away of stuff is inherent in human nature. I see it in two-and-a-half-year-old Eleanor who desires every Sophia figurine she sees and keeps them safely tucked away in her bright orange trick-or-treating pumpkin. I even see it in 12-month-old Theodore who speed-crawls to the bouncy ball that fits perfectly in his hand, his lovingly scattered pile of blocks, the Little People puppy with the red fire helmet, and his favorite bedtime board book. And so it continues into adulthood: I am free to nest away: I save the old, flat pillows so I have something to offer when snowstorms hit and people crash at our place. I take the crock pot that is older than me "but still works just fine!" so that I'll be able to make a vegetable and mac n' cheese at Christmas. I buy the mixing bowls on the Black Friday sale because I want to be able to start in on the chai bundt cake without having to do the blueberry bundt's dishes. I gaze happily at my match up shampoo stash and know that if the government collapsed or the zombie apocalypse hit, we would have clean hair.

But there is another side of me too, the quirk of my personality, the nurture meeting the nature. There is a part of me that desires minimalism and open space. A part of me is crushed by the overwhelming presence of too much stuff. And so I rampage through my closet and toss out everything I haven't worn recently. I dig through the wash cloth and old towel pile and throw away everything with a hole in it because rags never clean as well as paper towels. I go through the kid toys and donate the things no one has ever really liked. Even as I stock-pile clearance sheets, I allow no extra furniture in the dining room. I insist on no hall tables in the hallway. Open spaces, visible corners.

I marvel that we insist on buying and collecting things even as we don't need them and do need the money. We have 26 little Sofia figurines, yet we still want the mermaid set. Even with a cabinet choked full of yarn, I still squeal at a sale. I stock up on the good brownie mix when it goes on sale even though I don't need the calories, don't have the pantry space, know that it would be healthier to make my own mix, and want to save the money. Even as I secretly wish that a tornado would wipe out half the clutter that is building in my basement, I find myself squirreling things away. Such strange creatures we are.

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